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In situ burning agreements


In situ Burning Agreements in the First Coast Guard District

Physical removal of all spilled oil from the environment, while a preferred option, is often not possible because of the dynamic nature of the environment in which the oil is spilled. In situ burning is the combustion of oil in place, typically considered on-water by containing oil in fire-resistant containment booms, but also feasible on land and in marshes. It consumes tremendous volumes of oil rapidly, and may be considered where the smoke plume will not affect populated areas. Additional general information and additional references on in situ burning have been assembled by the Regional Response Teams I and II (RRT I and II).

 In Situ Burning Planning Mandate

Because of the potential benefits that burning offers and the need for prompt decisions, the Clean Water Act (as amended by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990) and the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan (NCP) specifically require that Regional and Area Contingency Plans include applicable pre-authorization plans for the use of burning agents and address the specific contexts in which such products should and should not be used (see 40 CFR 300.910), additionally, Area Contingency Plans are required to preapprove specific countermeasures to reduce adverse spill impacts. In situ burn preplanning is important to ensure burning agent use decisions may be made rapidly, and implications of other laws and regulations (such as the Clean Air Act) are addressed before the spill.

Summary of Agreements in the First District (RRTs I and II)

Because of planning mandates and potential benefits of rapid decisions, several agreements have been drawn at the RRT I and II planning levels to allow for swift decisions on in situ burning use in specified zones. The following summary table and following generalized protocols capture the key concepts of each agreement. You should always refer to the original agreements for specifics on the protocols and zones.

Agreement Area and Date Approved

OSC Decision Zone

Expedited Decision Zone

Case by Case Zone

Special Consideration Areas and agency to be involved

Region I
(New England, minus CT and VT)
[Note Region I agreement applies when burn ignited without first applying burning agent]

> 6 mi

1-6 mi: decision of OSC and State OSC within Unified Command

Remainder of agreement area (inside 1 mile) decision is that of OSC and State OSC in consultation with DOI/NOAA trustees, and involving other parties as defined by state (i.e. fire chiefs, air quality boards, etc.)

  1. State of Maine OSC must concur to 12 miles year round (Maine)
  2. Areas less than 20 feet deep (DOI and NOAA)
  3. Jeffrey's Ledge between 4/1-9/30 (NMFS)
  4. Stellwagen Bank year round (SBNMS Sanctuary Manager)
  5. Great South Channel between 4/1-6/30 and 10/1-11/15 (NMFS)
  6. Cape Cod Bay between 2/1-5/15

Region II
[Note Region II applies with or without burning agents]

> 6 nm

3-6 mi: OSC decision if wind decidedly offshore

Case by case decisions require concurrence of EPA, affected state(s) and consultation with DOI and NOAA in the following areas: State territorial waters, marine reserves, National Marine Sanctuaries, National or State Wildlife Refuges, National Park Service units, proposed or designated Critical Habitats, coastal wetlands (including submerged seagrass and algal beds).

  1. Area Committees and agreement signatories may establish exclusion zones (none defined as of 12/99).












Common Protocols of In Situ Burning Decision Agreements (refer to original for details)

  1. Affirm the OSC's authority (defined in the NCP) to use in situ burning or burning agents without additional approvals or consultations, in order to prevent or substantially reduce the hazard to human life.
  2. Require the OSC to notify the RRT agencies of his decision to use in situ burning as soon as practicable.
  3. Require use of recognized techniques, such as the use of fire-resistant boom to contain and control the burn.
  4. Require adherence to health and safety requirements and thresholds during the burn.
  5. Require burning in accordance with Endangered Species Act Section 7 consultations, and require specific consultation if endangered species are seen in burn area.
  6. Require air plume monitoring (such as measuring of inhalable air particulates, see SMART).
  7. Require provisions for residue collection.
  8. Require an OSC-arranged debrief following an in situ burn use per the agreement.

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Updated:  01/10/2007